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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Troyden Prinsloo: South African Olympian making waves in the UAE’s swim culture

With state-of-the-art facilities already in place, South African instructor Prinsloo wants to elevate Emirati swimmers for the future, writes Ali Khaled.
Troyden Prinsloo has competed at the highest level and is now focused on helping swimming grow in the UAE. Courtesy: Fit Republik
Troyden Prinsloo has competed at the highest level and is now focused on helping swimming grow in the UAE. Courtesy: Fit Republik

UAE swimming fans following the World Aquatics Championships taking place in Kazan, Russia, will not have failed to notice the shortage of Emiratis taking part.

Only Abdullah Hatem, in the open water 5-kilometre and 10km races, has taken part so far, with Mubarak Al Besher, 27, and teenagers Yaqoub Al Saadi, Nada Al Bedwani and Alia Al Shamsi entering the indoor competition next week.

It is a small team for a country that has no shortage of world-class facilities for a growing sport, and certainly no lack of ambition.

Dubai’s state-of-the-art Hamdan Sports Complex has already hosted several international competitions in recent years, and last week it was announced the 2020 Short Course World Swimming Championships will take place in Abu Dhabi. Expect new facilities, more pools and awareness campaigns to start springing up in the capital soon.

But for all its facilities, the UAE lacks a competitive swimming culture. For Emiratis and expatriates alike, local swimming standards, and competitions, have generally fallen short of the levels required to compete at the very top.

It is something that South African aquatics instructor and former Olympic swimmer Troyden Prinsloo is hoping to change.

“The programme we have set up goes from coaching babies all the way through to elite level,” said Prinsloo, who teaches at Fit Republik in Dubai Sports City.

“So we have babies as young as six months old, to five year olds, to 16- and 17 year olds.”

Students will be provided with high-quality training, according to Prinsloo, who grew up in his homeland before moving to the United States to take up university studies. He moved to Dubai seven months ago.

“We are bringing top coaches from around the world,” he said. “I think it will only be a short while before we have strong teams here, able to enter major competitions.”

The 29-year-old instructor hopes that the variety of programmes will prove appealing to more than just those hoping to swim competitively.

“There will be adult classes, and ladies’ fitness classes,” Prinsloo said. “One of the most difficult classes will be for triathletes trying to improve on their performances.”

Emirati swimmer Mohsen Hassan Aal Ali has been training with Prinsloo for only a few weeks but is already reaping the benefits of his experience.

“In two months my standards have improved; I never imagined I would progress so quickly,” said Aal Ali, 32.

“I am very thankful to Troy, his training methods have been amazing.”

Aal Ali is hoping that his time at Fit Republik will help him achieve his dream.

“From the beginning I’ve liked this facility, it’s very big and welcoming,” he said. “Troy is an Olympian, he has some great race times, and he is a swimmer of the highest order. My target is the Iron Man Challenge in the US in September, and I’m confident that he will get me there.”

Prinsloo’s long list of achievements includes three gold medals at the 2007 All Africa Games in Algiers and a 1,500-metre freestyle bronze at the 2006 Commonwealth Games held in Melbourne.

He highlights three achievements as the finest of his swimming career: taking part in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, in the pool; the 2012 London Games, in open water; and winning a US national collegiate title, which he said was “special because it was up against some of the best guys in the world”.

Prinsloo says has seen enough during the short time he has been in the UAE to form a belief that all the ingredients are here to spread the swimming culture among UAE residents.

“Of course, the facilities are great,” he said. “I’ve been around the world, but here we have some of the best. From a management side, the vision here is to be the best. It’s working, the programme is special and the coaches are great.”

Producing swimmers capable of competing at international level is a long-term project, requiring dedication from parents and children from an early age.

Prinsloo says there is already some exciting talent on Fit Republik’s books.

“We do have some really good swimmers,” Prinsloo said. “There are a few 13 year olds, and one of them is a French swimmer; she is already at national level. Some others are really good, very talented.”

More than 500 members have taken part in the programme at all a levels so far, and more extensive classes and tryouts are constantly being added to the programme.

August 17 will see the start of Fit Republik’s separate “Junior Hell Week” for swimmers age 10-12, in parallel with “Senior Hell Week” (13 and older), which are both three-week training camps that consists of a combination of intense swimming training and dry-land exercises.

Prinsloo hopes more people will join in the coming months.

“That is definitely the goal. We are looking to be one of the stronger programmes in the Middle East,” he said. “We’re supported by great management. We’ve only been running for six months, so it’s early days but we are pushing on. It’s very exciting.”

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